A successful collaboration between school and public libraries:
How Cobb County Public Library and Cobb County School District used Biblionasium to support summer and year-round reading
Cobb County Public Libraries successfully teamed up with Cobb County School District and used Biblionasium, the “Goodreads for Kids,” to keep students reading over the summer and throughout the school year. Just over the course of the summer, Cobb County students logged over 3.7 million minutes, and library representatives report that students are logging even more reading minutes as the school year continues.
The following case study is based upon feedback from Lisa Cleary, Community Engagement Manager at the Cobb County Public Library, and an interview with Holly Frilot, Supervisor of Library Media Education for the Cobb County School District. Compiled by Anna Winham. Photos courtesy of Ashley Sherman and Cobb County Library System.
Can public libraries, school libraries, and Biblionasium, the social reading platform, work effectively together?
Yes! More than 10,000 students from 87 Cobb County School District and over 30 schools from other districts participated in the collaborative 2018 summer reading program. While in the past Biblionasium has partnered only with schools, the level of engagement and enthusiasm demonstrated through this first partnership with a public library shows a bright future in working with public libraries as well. The collaboration among public libraries, public schools, Biblionasium, and the larger community all together will help to build an even more vibrant community of readers.
What inspired you to use Biblionasium for your summer reading program?
Cobb County Public Libraries had successfully partnered with Cobb County School District to encourage summer reading for several years. Building upon that success, Frilot desired to find a platform that could be used to support reading culture all year, providing a seamless transition from school year to summer. The Cobb County Public Library System was looking for a summer reading platform that avoided direct marketing to their patrons and that included flexibility. They also wanted something that would be familiar to the students. Frilot mentioned Biblionasium as a possible platform to support summer reading for the students of Cobb County.
How did you develop this strong relationship between your two organizations?
Lisa Cleary, the Community Engagement Officer at the public library, has a passion for students. As a former educator herself, she understands what K-12 students need and works diligently to support them. On the school side, one of Frilot’s predecessor’s reached out to Cleary to establish a joint summer reading program several years ago. Due to Cleary’s passion for serving the students in the community, the relationship continued to grow. Both Frilot and Cleary encourage others to establish partnerships between schools and libraries on behalf of students.
“This partnership with the Cobb County Public Library System and Biblionasium provides an engaging digital platform to support the reading lives of our students year-round.”
Holly Frilot, Supervisor of Library Media Education
Why did you choose Biblionasium for your schools?
In working with the library media specialists in schools, Frilot noticed that schools were using many different types of reading incentive programs, and several of them were very labor-intensive for the library media specialist. After researching several platforms, she tested Biblionasium with 6 schools in 2016-2017. With Biblionasium, the library media specialist and teachers can easily interact digitally with their students. Frilot particularly likes that Biblionasium is synced with Follett Destiny, their current library management software.
Furthermore, Frilot wants to emphasize both print literacy and digital literacy. The ability for Biblionasium to provide the connection for bridging those digital literacy areas, such as learning how to type or learning how to print a page, as well as providing students a platform to keep track of their reading, was a key reason for choosing Biblionasium. Additionally, the ability of Biblionasium to issue different challenges to different levels of kids, while neither group has to know that the other group has a different challenge, was very appealing to Frilot. Due to positive feedback from the initial 6 schools, Biblionasium was implemented district-wide in K-8 starting in the fall of 2017. Biblionasium bridges Lexile scores, conversations about books, digital bookshelves, and reading progress into one digital platform. In short, Biblionasium enables library media specialists to focus on the “choice, voice, and joy” of reading and support school-wide reading culture.
How did you market the summer reading program with Biblionasium?
Cobb County School District and Libraries built a strong relationship through establishing a joint summer reading program several years ago. They were successful in getting the word out about the importance of students reading all summer long. Many students kept reading logs in the past, so the transition to the Biblionasium platform was a natural one. Both the Cobb County School District and Libraries continued to communicate with students, teachers, and parents, including promoting the summer reading program online on their respective websites, cobbsummerreading.com and cobbcat.org/summer-reading-program.
How did you work with Biblionasium?
Much of the program’s success was due to the close cooperation between Biblionasium and Cobb County Library Staff. Community Engagement Manager Lisa Cleary said, “Biblionasium was very responsive to our needs … [they] made it so much easier for us to support and direct our users. Biblionasium created a customized login page for our students. This added tool … really helped our younger patrons log the minutes they read online during the summer.”
“This partnership with the Cobb County Public Library System and Biblionasium provides an engaging digital platform to support the reading lives of our students year-round,” said Holly Frilot, Supervisor of Library Media Education. Cleary agreed: “A wonderful tool that encourages our students to keep reading year round!”
Biblionasium was very responsive to our needs … [they] made it so much easier for us to support and direct our users.
Lisa Cleary, Community Engagement Manager
What steps did you take to ensure that this collaboration would be successful?
Many students became really familiar with the platform during summer reading. This led to increased usage the following school year. Cleary and Frilot work very closely together as there’s a lot of overlap in their work. Buy-in from both sides is essential, and Frilot suggests that schools must keep the public library engaged in what schools are doing, because schools are just one subset of the population the public library serves. Invite each other to events, and be sure to show up to support and learn from each other.
What advice do you have for anyone trying to implement a similar program?
Think about the scope of the partnership. For the data transfer and how kids are logging in, you may need to collaborate with lawyers on policy. Budget time for this! It’s definitely worth it to be prepared. Frilot adds: please do not hesitate to reach out to other districts who have done it to get their advice. When two public institutions can come together for the community, they present a united front on behalf of literacy and make the community stronger.